How old do you think you’ll be when you forget the time Kansas State outlasted Michigan State in overtime at Madison Square Garden?

80? 90? 100?

Is there an age old enough to make it recede from a spot in your mind?

That’s the level of basketball the Wildcats and Spartans gifted to us all Thursday night in the game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. And if we’re being real, the game of the past several NCAA Tournaments.

This one will always hold a special place in the Tournament’s rich history. Maybe it’s not quite Duke over Kentucky in the 1992 Regional Final. Or Illinois rallying past Arizona in the 2005 Regional Final.

But when you pull the lens back to the Regional Semifinals, this may well have been the most legendary Sweet 16 game since UCLA’s stunning 73-71 win over Adam Morrison and Gonzaga in 2006.

A game for the ages

The Garden bills itself as The World’s Most Famous Arena. And that’s true, although one wonders how much it is riding the coattails of the 3 previous New York City buildings of the same name.

There is also a layer of irony to an arena where the New York Knicks are the primary basketball tenant being known as the most famous in the world. It is famous because of what visiting players do against the Knicks, like Kobe Bryant scoring 61 points or Michael Jordan dropping 55 points or LeBron James casually putting up 52.

It’s also famous because of performances that have nothing to do with the Knicks, such as the virtuoso showing from K-State point guard Markquise Nowell against Michigan State.

Nowell wiped out an NCAA Tournament record that had stood since 1987, dishing out 19 assists in K-State’s 98-93 win.

Fittingly, the last of those assists was on the bucket that gave the Wildcats a 96-93 lead with 17 seconds left. And the dish that tied the 36-year-old record held by UNLV’s Mark Wade came on one of the most audacious passes in Tournament history.

All of that, and 20 points, and the game-clinching steal, from a 5-8 player who started his college career at Little Rock.

Absolutely remarkable.

No, it doesn’t reflect well on the Big Ten that this is the 2nd straight year without a team in the Elite 8. Or the 3rd straight Tournament without a team in the Final Four. To say nothing of the 22nd consecutive Tourney without a national champion.

But don’t put that on Michigan State.

The Spartans were in no way outclassed here. Someone had to lose. And it certainly wasn’t the fans.

Michigan State just drew the short straw.

“I’ve been part of a lot of great wins and a lot of tough losses. I’ve never been prouder of a team,” Tom Izzo said after the game. “We didn’t really have it tonight and we still found a way to battle back.”

A performance without peer

What was it going to take to beat Michigan State on Thursday?

How about the best offensive performance that an opponent has mustered against Izzo’s defense this season.

Per Ken Pomeroy, Kansas State had an effective field goal percentage of 64% against the Spartans. That tops the previous high of 62% set by Iowa in its wild 10-point comeback in the final 40 seconds on Feb. 25.

This likely isn’t the time Michigan State fans would care to be reminded that they lost the most memorable game of the 2023 regular season and the 2023 NCAA Tournament, but, well… the numbers don’t lie.

Like this number: 2 of Michigan State’s 5 best shooting performances this season resulted in losses. The Iowa and Kansas State games, of course.

The Spartans hadn’t lost 1 of their 5 best shooting games in a season since 2017. This year, it happened twice.

That’s indicative not only that Michigan State’s defense wasn’t a vintage formula, but that the opponents in those games did something extraordinary. And it’s hard to beat extraordinary.

Such as this.

Nowell’s performance will remain forever entrenched in Tourney lore, but there were multiple Spartans who were amazing as well.

AJ Hoggard was actually the highest-scoring point guard in this game with 25 points. Tyson Walker, not to be outshined by fellow New Yorker Nowell, was terrific with 16 points and 5 assists. Joey Hauser had a casual 18 points and 6 boards. Jaden Akins came out of nowhere with 3 blocks to go along with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting beyond the arc.

Michigan State played a great game. Kansas State somehow played an even better one.

Both gave the rest of us something extraordinary.